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UEL students celebrate New Beginnings

University of East London provides students with unique access to education

Mum of two Marianne Gibb has won the University of East London’s Pre-Entry Programmes Student of the Year award for excelling in the University’s unique New Beginnings course.

Marianne, from Palmers Green, was one of 160 students, among them carers, builders, teachers and actors, who have just graduated from the University on its innovative Pre-Entry Programme.

The course, and its sister course – Introduction to Law Short Course – are both unique to the University of East London. They are aimed at people who do not have sufficient formal qualifications to start university, or have been out of education for a prolonged period of time. It is the only university running these courses, offering a lifeline to potential graduates without formal qualifications.

The students received certificates and plaudits for completing their courses, which act as a gateway to enrolling on to a variety of University of East London degree courses. The specially designed programme gives people from all backgrounds and ages a chance to pursue a degree course at the University of East London and is part of its commitment to widening access to higher education.

“It’s opened doors for a degree for me,” Marianne said after her win. She said she never expected to be chosen as the Student of the Year and was amazed. “It’s been a massive surprise,” she said. “I am delighted and the course has been brilliant. This is the only course available anywhere that gives you a chance to jump straight on to a degree course after just 10 weeks at New Beginnings.” 

Marianne (39) a mother of two girls aged 16 and 20, now plans to have a career as a forensic psychologist working with youth offenders, once she has completed her four-year BSc course in psychology. “I can’t wait to start the foundation next week,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to get a degree in psychology. I was a single parent working as a carer with elderly people with dementia and have done some other jobs too, but now my girls are older I can do something for myself.”

Marianne, whose eldest daughter Adina has also enrolled at the University of East London on a performing arts course, added, “New Beginnings really mean new beginnings for me.”

It was a case of going from Bollywood to criminology for successful mature student and Valedictorian Nick Coventon (56).  Nick has had a chequered career, working in construction and as an actor, including spending three months filming in London for a Bollywood movie. “I was the co-star, playing Desmond the petrol station manager, but Martin Scorsese hasn’t phoned me up yet,” he joked.  

Having completed his New Beginnings course, he is looking forward to starting his three-year BSc course in criminology and psychology at the University and being a step nearer to realising his dream of becoming a profiler, working for the police in psychoanalysing suspected criminals.

With two daughters, Holly and Charlotte, both in further education, he felt the time was right for him to study as well.

“I grew up on a south London housing estate surrounded by crime,” Nick explained, “so I am interested in criminology and have always wanted to study for a degree, but didn’t have the chance. Now with the help of New Beginnings I can realise my dream.

“It’s been fantastic. This course has enabled me to qualify to enrol for a BSc and study Maths O Level at the same time. New Beginnings has opened doors for me and the tutors have been so supportive. I can’t recommend it more.”

Shawna Lewis is another success story on the New Beginnings Course. She is set to do a degree in human resources management, having previously gained a diploma in teaching. Shawna has worked while raising her children aged 9 and 6 and is now excited to start her new course.

“I can’t wait to start my degree,” she said. “And I’d recommend the University of East London 150 per cent!”
The award ceremony was organised by the Pre-Entry Programmes team, Wasan Shoresh, Khadija Ahmed, David Murray and Caroline McGlynn, and was attended by graduates, their friends and family and colleagues from across the University.  As well as prize giving and speeches, the Pre-Entry graduates heard about the experiences of students on their degrees and about the Ambassador Scheme. 

Professor Charles Egbu, Pro-vice chancellor (Education and Experience) welcomed the students to the University Square Stratford Campus, congratulated them on their achievements and gave certificates to all graduating students. The peer-nominated prizes were presented by New Beginnings Alumni and recent UEL Graduate Valerie Kearney, while Chief Marketing Officer Vanessa Varvas handed over Career Focused awards.

#BeTheNext awards went to students from New Beginnings and the Law Short Course was presented by Chief Operating Officer Dr Ian Pickup. Richard Harty, Head of Early Childhood and Education awarded the Academic Achievement awards. 

The University’s Information, Advice and Guidance team offers advice about accessing higher education opportunities, including through the New Beginnings programme.  Find out more information here